16. Picking up the pieces

After the breakup with Merton, Evelyn and Cyril went their separate ways. There is no correspondence relating to Cyril’s return to North Africa, and  his later journey to Europe with Elsa Pfenniger, his Swiss mistress of whom Jigg was extremely fond.  In spite of this separation Cyril was willing to continue to support Evelyn financially, at least at first.

Shortly before this breakup, Evelyn and Jack Metcalfe had met at the home of mutual friends.  Jack recorded this meeting briefly in a diary entry which gave no clue as to the eventual importance of this meeting.  After the parting of the ways with Merton, she and Jack began living together–again, there are no letters in the collection referring to the development of this relationship.

A few words about Jack, full name William John Metcalfe.  He was born into a wealthy family in Heacham, Norfolk (Evelyn often claimed they were “minor nobility”) and was privately educated before studying at the University of London.  He wrote a number of works of science fiction (what might be called “fantasy” today) and was called to the Royal Navy Air Force during WW1.   After the war, he remained a reservist in the Royal Air Force, and supplemented his meagre royalties by teaching Latin and mathematics at a series of private schools.

We pick up the narrative with Evelyn staying in London with her good friends Otto Theis and Louise Morgan.  Again, none of the letters in the collection refer to the interval between the breakdown described by Gladys at the end of “Heartache” and this first letter.  Later, when she stayed in England with Jack for the first time, her letters reflect her bemusement at the British way of life.

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

c/o Theis, London
September 17 [1925]

Dear Mother:

Again I have held off writing in the hope of having money to send but I must wait until next month again.  You see we have no fixed source of income of any kind, just depending on what sells and what doesn’t, so one month we have some money and the next we don’t.  I have been interested in all your letters and all the Clarksville news, but I get blue when I can’t send money and don’t feel it worth while for me to write.  I have had my tonsils out and that cost something, but it is a great relief.  I have been suspected of having TB and floroscoped and x-rayed and found a little doubtful but not a real case.  So it is a relief to know anyhow.  I’ve stayed in London in order to be doctored but it is much too like New York in expensiveness for a permanent residence and to make things cheaper Jigeroo and Cyril went back to Italy.  Cyril sends some pictures but exhibitions have to be about two years apart in order to accumulate work of the best quality and you have to live in between.  He is not at all strong any more.1  Of course I miss them terrifically.  London always seems like a city of the drowned after New York and the English are so impersonal and their desire to keep everything on a purely formal plane is almost an insanity.  Sport and politics have to take the place of everything personal, though of course underneath they are the most sentimental race on earth.  I don’t really like them or feel drawn to them.  In some ways even the French are much closer, though they lack a subtle kind of imagination and are too diagrammatic on a mental plane.

The weather here makes seven kinds of a day in one.  It is balmy spring at ten am, winter at twelve, a dreary rainy autumn at three and at six before the sun goes it may be spring again.  Not as disagreeable as it sounds really.  But oh the types, the stony blue-eyed wooden well bred usual men, so good looking and so uninteresting.  And the women with heavy chins, slab sided figures, lovely skins, and perfectly vacant personalities.  Naturally that isn’t all, but it is the average.  The shops are dreadful.  You don’t mind having no money for what you don’t want to buy.  Ready made clothes  [missing page(s)]

Jigeroo isn’t going to school now, but he has been to French, Italian and Arab schools, French spoken in the Arab school.  I don’t know where he will go this winter.  If I get rich ever I’ll put him in a boarding school in Switzerland.  He looks very much like me everybody says.  He is way above my shoulder, about to my chin, pretty solid, and has a fine color.  His eyes are not as blue as they were, and his teeth need straightening some.  Otherwise except for size he looks about as you remember him.  He speaks slowly and has a lazy walk except when he plays very hard.  His sense of humour is superb and he is chocked full of temperament.  His appreciation of pictures and books is five years in advance of his age.  In school he is no good at all, won’t concentrate and seems to think education a joke, partly because he is always changing schools and they are all different.  He draws astonishingly.  Almost everybody likes him and certainly he is a handsome kid, but I’ve got to get enough money to give him a more practical education so if he is ever up against it he won’t be at such a disadvantage.

Lots of love and hopes for your health, and do forgive the hard time about money.  We are still gamblers and paupers about that.  Only there are bound to be streaks of luck.

elsie2

1Cyril was then 54 years old.

2Evelyn continued to use the name she was christened with when writing to her mother.

* * * * *

 To Manager, Chatham and Phoenix National Bank

Hotel de France
Gafsa, Tunisia
December 1, 1925

Mr Stuart B Plant, Mgr
Chatham and Phoenix National Bank
14th St and 8th Ave, New York City

Dear Mr Plant:

Evelyn Scott is coming to New York for reasons of health, and will probably be in need of funds in addition to her own.  Will you therefore please transfer at any time any amount she may specify from my account to hers.  This letter is authorization for this operation which please repeat as often as she may desire.  In other words, I wish her to have the benefit of my account as well as her own in case need arises during her stay in New York.

Yours very truly
C Kay Scott

* * * * *

Again, there are gaps in correspondence clarifying the decision Jack and Evelyn made some time during that December to go to England rather than return to the United States.  Jack had family connections in England and the couple found themselves in the Scilly Isles, a popular holiday spot, living out of season in a boarding house.  (Apologies to my British readers if they find some of the explanations in these letters unnecessary.)

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[c/o Mrs Clark, Palace Row, Tresco, Scilly Isles]
January 24 [1926]

Dear Otto:

I don’t want to wear you out with correspondence, but you were so good about the check and medicine and so on as you are about every damn thing you get axed when anybody gets in a hole, big or little.  I do think you are pretty gran’, Otto, and so do John1, and there ain’t no good way to tell you about it.  It must be the bloodiest nuisance in the world to have all the endless perpetual things on you, and this week there will be another, as by the beginning of next week I will want the check for five guineas (guineas,2 not pounds—and I will make him wait a bit longer for the next payment), and at the same time ten pounds more for myself as we pay board in advance.  Will you please send the money cash registered but not in 5 lb notes3 as one pound is all they can cash here.  If it gets here next Mon or even Wed will do.

I never saw such a tiny place that gave such impression of variety.  Down where we were today there was a waste looking flat, faintly blooming, with moss on the sandy earth.  It had the suggestion, where the sea was hidden, of a vast desolateness like the Campagna at Rome, and over toward the water long rolling hummocks were covered with a yellow grass, shining as blond hairs, dry but unseeded, and bristly-stiff, but growing thick as the fur of an animal.  When we climbed the summit of the last point of land, we could see a rocky nudity of beach exposed and on one upstanding boulder a very large gull, very still and alone, presiding over the reflections in the brackish puddles that the sea had left.

We made a detour around the governors bloody “abbey” which looks like the ancestral castle of a Long Island millionaire, and passed a large pond or small lake, according to your temperament from which a pair of wild ducks darted with their nasal cries.  And when we had got back on the more trodden road that would take us home it was nearly dark and what is called the Round Island Light, that John is very fond of and will put in a story, was making a pale ember in the ash of the [illeg].  Then all at once it swelled like a window into the lovliest rosiest depth of hell, and was the most beautiful red red red menace I have seen in a long time.

Well—here we are again.  The food is per usual and one grows used to it—though I do miss coffee of which I have not had a drop, and the missing of which makes me think much of you.  I would also appreciate one of Louise’s most divine salads as but for fresh meat and the oranges we have got ourselves we would sure have scurvy.

Well, I do wish this was a lesser run from London.  Mr A Burdett has not shown up yet—but I wish you could.  The great bird life in the spring and the feathered population now is limited (no personal reference meant).  But I have had great pleasure from the cormorants, who have necks as long as baby swans but not sinuous.  Their black feathers are usually so wet they seem like eels in a dripping fleshiness.  They swim with their bodies mainly submerged, and when they dive it is in the neat pointing attitude of a human swimmer, for they leap an inch or two out of the water, and spring with a half somersault on the fish they’ve sight.  They look so like pogy sly old men in wet bathing suits, but with a sinister agility.

Maybe birds won’t interest you, but the surf yesterday in the storm would have.  We were on the rolling moor that is at this end and on a pinnacle the wind almost took me off.  The harbours all around are full of small mountains like miniatures of Rio and on these a perfect fury of lashing vapour at a gigantic height.  Thank Pete we brought books tho work goes fine, but stops at noon, tho John does another batch of typing by the shades of night.  His book seems to me to be doing well.

Love to Louise Evelyn.  John sends love too.

John Metcalfe, with whom Evelyn was then living.

The guinea, a unit which is no longer used, was 21 shillings, or one pound one shilling.

The unit of English currency, the pound, is written as “£”, but Evelyn is writing it as it sounds. The correct representation would have been “£5 notes”.

This amount, four pounds 10 shillings, would be more correctly written “£4 10s”.

 

Tresco, Scilly Isles
Tresco, Scilly Isles

To Louise Morgan

[Tresco, Scilly Isles]
April 7 [1926]

Louise, darling, you can not hope to keep quantitive pace with my corresponding.  Until I get hold of a History of the Civil War to begin book two1 on, I have all my mornings for letters.  John is helping me correct spelling and punctuation in the afternoons.  He has laid off his novel for a bit and is beginning a short story which has a very spirited opening and promises to be both good and saleable.  We are still in the air about plans, for the air ministry had an Easter holiday and has not answered his inquiry about training camp.

Beloved, when you say have an idea, and especially about Staples2, I would not be right bright if I did not have a vision of Louise sweating on the floor of the living room and Miss Staples being guiltily nice and ineffectual and looking at a [dressmaking] pattern as if it came out of a menagerie.

As for having the specific things altered, I am afraid everything is past altering but the green dress Whitehead5 made, and that I am having let out here as it is a very simple matter.  The skirts are being ripped but they miss three or four inches in the belt and I don’t think the seams will do it and there is no more to do to them.  That leaves the green dress and the grey coat (which, by the way, has lost somewhat by having the buttons moved to their last extremity) to travel in, which would do except that it is going to be hot in may when we hit Marseille.  I have that old black crepe de chine of Phyllis Crawford’s3 which it may be can be ripped to make a skirt.  Do you think it would go with a green crepe de chine jumper?  I got some samples from Peter Jones4 and figured out the cost of a cape dress (they are very a la mode again)—short cape, plain skirt with one pleat in front, and tailored silk jumper—with, possibly, as it only takes three eighths of a yard and the pattern comes with the dress, a soft hat of same stuff as the skirt, and it came to a little over five pounds, figuring on Miss Whitehead’s possible price.  If I had the money here I might have tackled asking her, but I don’t know yet whether we can get thru month (I begin to see Otto’s troubles—John had another income tax, and had to gibe three pounds for a contribution for a grave stone for his uncle Reggie just departed).  Also another payment to Haire5, and we must have two hundred dollars clear just to reach Marseille.  John will get some and me some next month and we can do it, but five or six pounds on a dress is a plenty so I thought of writing to Miss Whitehead just before I leave and asking her if she could cut over black crepe de chine and make a blouse.  I’d rather give the work to poor old Staples, but if I did, at your house, you know as well as I do that you would but in and she would look on.

For the green dress I didn’t consider her, for, had it cost less and I gotten it,  I imagined she couldn’t tackle it-or feared that, even sending it to her house, you would somehow assume responsibility.  I don’t trust you in these ere matters.

Please don’t cry when you think of me, for I would feel comfortabler if you laughed.

I now and then have very vivid dreams of Owen and wake up in a state of sentimentality that, if painful in a way, is nice, for my subconscious doesn’t seem to have retained any bitter impressions and I always feel afterward that I pray really honestly that he is happier and not worried, and I hope thinking of me isn’t ugly to him.  If its now ugly, distorted with pain impressions, I don’t want more.  Goodness knows.  Nothing stands between us and kindly feelings except (for me) his tendency to be injust and even, latterly, monstrous in misinterpretations of Cyril.  This I understood at the time, but I hope peace of mind restored a point of view that would make me feel that old having to chose between Cyril and Owen even in friendship—tho of course nothing would ever deviate my comprehension of Cyril’s beauty.  However, Owen may be recovered in his mind, and if so blessings upon him with all my heart and no bunk.  I guess he hit my maternal instinct as no adult ever did.

I won’t be in Paris, honey.  John finds we can go through from Callais to Marseilles and that a couchette costs no more and less than the hotel in Paris, so we are planning to check luggage from London to Marseilles.  Thus, London leave 11 am, Callais, 2.15, leave 2.55 arrive Paris 7.30 (hour and a half wait in station but no change of cars), then arrive Marseilles next morning 9.30.  Fare for both of us comes to about 150 dollars, counting excess luggage, meals, etc.  I know I can buy in Marseilles, except that for the minute I won’t have money enough, as I have to take enough to live in there until I can get another check from America, which is about a month.  However, I’ll have another check from Sug first next month (Marie hundred) and if I have to will cable for it before leaving London.

Oh, well I could talk on all day.  I’ll spare you.  Thank you for the Butterick address, and I’m glad—or hope—it sounded so—that you are feeling a bit more chipper.  I want to hear any news from the kids.  Give Otto a hug, beloved, and for yourself all my lesbian outpourings which, by the way, John has by no means overcome.  John says to give you both a handsome lot of love from him.  We had a wonderful scrap last night, of the only kind we have had since we came, about the bedclothes, and me turning over in bed when John can’t sleep.  I wish I had had a dictaphone.  John accused me of “sighing” and keeping him awake.  It’s a species of tyranny that must proceed from his subconscious as he has never showed it except when half asleep.  Then he says I have all the sheet, when I have three eighths of an inch and so on. It is screamingly funny, and shows the subconscious of a bachelor I think with thirty four years of managing his own bedcovers.

I bobbed the daughter in law of my landlady and am now being solicited by a neighbour, it having gone abroad, John says that before I married him I worked in a beauty shop.

agin, love, evelyn

1Evelyn was at this time working on the book which would be published in 1929 as The Wave.

2Miss Staples appears to have been Louise’s seamstress. At that time it was not uncommon for women to have their clothes “run up” from patterns (including Butterick) by a seamstress.

3Miss Whitehead appears to be another seamstress.

4A fashionable London department store

5Dr Haire, Evelyn’s gynaecologist. She had had recurring problems ever since the birth of her son, perhaps compounded by the inept repair surgery performed in Brazil. ~6Even though they did not marry until 1930, Evelyn and John posed as a married couple so they could live together without exciting comment.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[Tresco, Scilly Isles]
April 19 [1926]

Dear Otto:

This besieging is not an attack but an apology.  John is so sensitive on the money question that he slurred our difficulties and I did not realize that when the board was payed this am we wouldn’t have anything to buy matches, cigarettes, or oil for the stove—which last is serious as we are both laid up more or less with flu.  So I’m writing this because I axed for money for the end of this week and now, want to let you know the boats are changed and to get it here Friday it must reach Penzance in time for a sailing at 9 Friday morning.  Otto, when I get to France I won’t devil you no long.  I wrote to the bank on the thirty-first about cabling that money.  Certainly looks as if they’d had time.  What do you think?  I gave them the Fleet Street address?1  Oh damn money, it do make the future look uncertain.   But I’m letting off steam to you, it can’t be done before John, as he already has a COMPLEX and wonders what Cyril will think of him, and so on.  I trust Cyril’s understanding but am by no means sure John and me and Jig, half time Jig, can subsist very comfortably on our twenty five a week.  However there’s always hope.  Otto its no longer a question of a grand gesture about this money, but that I owe you in plain cash just for electricity and gas and you’ve never said how much.  Sometimes when you think pisin (I don’t mean that) poison is so cheap and life is so dear you wonder why you do it.  But it is and you do, and if I try to “wish I was dead” I ain’t sure I mean it.

I hope my groans don’t hit you at a hard time.  If they do throw a brick at me.  I can’t mention money in any ordinary tone of voice.

Lots of love from both of us to yawl.  evelyn

The address of The Outlook, where Otto worked

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Tresco, Scilly Isles
April 23, 1926

Beloved dear, I had such a vivid dream about you last night and yet I haven’t the faintest idea this morning what it was about—just the strong impression of you that held over until morning and made me feel like writing to you.  I sent a letter through Glad and hope you get it, but I don’t know that she has your address, so this through Ellen who, last letter, mentioned having heard from you.

I hope spring is there.  March gave here fallacious hints, and April has been one succession of hair and wind storms, of chill unimpassioned moodiness.  Scilly is such a Noah’s ark of a place, but with most of the animals left out.  Just a few human breeds in twos and twos in squat little stone cottages, neat like ships at seas, but as plainly adorned.  You’d be amused with the interior of the room we have to work in.  It is very tiny, very low ceilinged, and, like all Scilly houses, with a window not much bigger than a porthole.  The furniture (it is a dining room) is broad striped plush and ornate machine carved backs—three chairs, two arm chairs for head and foot of table, and a chaise lounge about big enough for one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs.  On the chaise lounge is a red sofa pillow covered with a Nottingham lace tidy.  The sideboard is red, imitation mahogany.  On it repose a cracked Sunday teaset of royal blue and gild, mended with liquid cement and non-usable; two “hand painted” bowls (non used) and a huge imitation cut glass bottled revolving silver-plated canister.  All the bottles except the mustard pot are empty but everyday it is put on the table for every meal, presumably, because it is so heavy, to keep the tablecloth from blowing off.  On one wall are three hunting prints, pink coats, hounds etc, one without a glass, and two with glasses cracked.  One the sideboard wall is another chromo of Highland Cattle in a Turneresque debauch of sunset and water.  On either side the sideboard hang two green plush mats triangular in shape framing small round mirrors.  Again, on the third wall, is an enlarged photograph of my landlady’s father-in-law and mother-in-law—an old lady like a mild and Christian monkey, a cocky obstinate looking little white haired man who obviously takes to himself full credit for his wife’s faithfulness.  There is, too, an enlarged and colored photo of the landlord and landlady—she, wearing a knit jersey and pince nez (all highly tinted) and he, with his moustache bright gold, standing beside her and looking a bit of a beau.  On the mantel shelf are three vases decorated with Watteau figures, all the vases as tall as funeral urns, with huge gilt urns, the one in the center mounted high above the others on a base of china that is like a tower.  Mingled with this adornment are crowds of adenoidal family photographs, some framed, some unframed, some passepartoured,1 and the mantel shelf has an embroidered linen lambrequin.  The highly polished brass fire set adds the last note.  Through the window, Tresco harbour looks like a pan full of blue water with some funny paper sailing boats on it.

By the time we leave we will have been here almost four months, so we know it well.

But the island sensation is growing strong.  An island must be tropical if it is anything.  This is often too much like an ocean liner in the North Atlantic.  Bermuda had twenty miles.  Tresco has three.

John and I are only waiting for enough cash to move.  I don’t want to crush Cyril with responsibilities, and I hope to Pete to get something soon from the advance on novel—if there is any.  And then—oh, it will be joy to see Sug and Jig again and Elsa, too—but especially Jig.  I think, I hope, John will like them and they him.  Now I still wish that you, dearest honey, were coming to spend the summer with us.  There’ll always be a place if you get enough just for fare.  I truly think you’d like John.  I don’t know anyone just the same type—a little like Cyril, a little like Martin, more callow than Cyril, and less hardened thru bitter experience than Martin.  But he has been good to me, Lola, very, very, very.

This is just little more than gossip.  I don’t know what I want to talk to you about, further than I want to talk.  I wish we could all see you.  Darling, your transparent alabaster red-hot furnace fire warms a lot of space over the chill Atlantic.  I wish I knew how to send warm back.  And I do long to see the poems.  If you can’t write please delegate somebody to tell me how you are, something about practical happenings, your health, and so on.

Love and love and love.  This year in general counts up a good number 1926 = 18 = 9.  Good year for your book.  I am trying to arrange to go to a spiritualist seance in London.  I’ll write you about it.

evelyn

Passepartout is a black paper tape which was used to bind the edges of pictures as a cheap alternative to framing

No letters survive which record the departure from the Scilly Isles, of the decisions that led to Evelyn and John ending up in Cassis-sur-Mer on the south coast of France not far from Marseille, or of their journey there. Nor is there any account of how it was that Jigg, who was then 12 years old, came to them from Tunisia, where he had been living with Cyril and Elsa.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[5 rue Victor Hugo, Cassis-sur-Mer, France]
[June 1926]

Beloved Lola:

John, Jig and myself are at Cassis, a village one hour from Marseille.  Cyril and Elsa are at l’Estaque, two hours away.

If you can get the fare, won’t you come stay with us.  Our flat has only two rooms, but we can get you another outside where you can have breakfast in bed and bigger meals with us—only walking a step so to speak.

It is warm, but there is the sea and calm, and we love you so—John and Elsa both want to know you so.  Jig sends his dearest love to you and Davy.  So do I.

Blessed, you could take a boat to Marseille, wireless us the day before you get in, and Cyril, John, Elsa, me and Jig all meet you easily at Marseille.  You need a change beloved as well as you need many other things.  The boat fare, second class, is about $145, but you must have fruit or something of your own.  In summer the journey is not rough.  You could see Gibraltar, Paloma, Naples en route as we did and we’d bring you right here.  If I get anything on my novel you won’t need any money here.  I doubt living with us won’t cost you with room, more than a dollar a day.  Please we all want it.  Evelyn

entrance to Cassis harbour
The entrance to Cassis harbour

* * * * *

Not long after this Evelyn and Jack left Cassis for Portugal and then back to Algeria and Cyril.  All of this in next week’s installment.

 

 

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